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April 13, 2009

Horn: I'm not going anywhere

Darrin Horn had a message on Monday night -- he's not going anywhere.

"We tried to put it to rest last week by saying there was no involvement, but we really just want to reiterate tonight that I did not talk to Xavier University," Horn said. "There was never a third party involved in talks with Xavier University. I have no interest in the job.

"I had no interest in the job when the speculation started, in any way, shape, or form, and quite honestly, was a little surprised at being part of that speculation."

A few days after he was publicly linked with the coaching vacancy at Xavier, Horn and South Carolina Athletics Director Eric Hyman were on the "Inside the Roost" radio show. Each said they understood the pressure on everybody associated with a coaching search, but the key word in any search was "speculation."

The speculation grew on April 9 when it was reported by some media outlets that Horn had talked with Xavier. The Musketeers are seeking a replacement for Sean Miller, who left for the open job at Arizona, and the 36-year-old Horn seemed a natural fit.

Despite the obvious drawback of leaving a major school for a mid-major -- Xavier plays in the Atlantic 10, yet has bucked its mid-major status by appearing in 18 NCAA tournaments in the past 26 years, including the past four -- Horn's name was intriguing. He's a Kentucky native, having grown up in Lexington, around 90 minutes from Cincinnati; he still has connections across the Bluegrass; he is making less at USC ($800,000) than the Xavier job paid Miller (over $1 million).

Speculation grew when Horn couldn't be reached that day and the same media outlets then reported he was in Cincinnati. Horn confirmed on Monday that he was in Cincinnati, but only as part of a pre-planned trip.

"Matter of fact, I was in Cincinnati," he said. "I was in Cincinnati on Tuesday and I was there on a previously scheduled trip as part of spring break for my kids and our family to visit my wife's brother and his family."

Horn was in Columbia on the evening of April 9, where he released a statement saying he does not comment on rumor mills but had not spoken with any other schools. He repeated that on Monday.

"I just left a job like that to come be where I want to be, which is at a state school in the SEC, working for a terrific administration," Horn said. "I'm exactly where I want to be. There is nothing to it. There's no third party, there's no nothing, in terms of any talks."

Hyman thanked the coach for coming by and congratulated him on the season. In Horn's first year, the Gamecocks finished 21-10, 10-6 in the SEC, and won a share of the SEC East championship. They were in good position for an NCAA berth but lost three of their final four games before getting relegated to the NIT.

"The future is very promising," Hyman said. "I think everybody's pumped up about South Carolina basketball."

According to Xavier's Rivals.com site, Musketeerscoop.com, an announcement on the coaching search is expected soon. While the site's sources indicate Horn may still be in the mix, the site also says everything is pointing to top assistant Chris Mack receiving the job.

Horn said with that out of the way, he could concentrate on the two biggest issues in the immediate future -- recruiting and the status of point guard Devan Downey. Although Horn said speculation can have a negative impact on recruiting and a program, he was pleased with the two signees he's already added and expects there to be no problems on Wednesday, when his other two verbal commitments can send in their national letters-of-intent.

"We like where we are," Horn said.

Ramon Galloway and Lakeem Jackson are already signed. Steve Spinella and Johndre Jefferson are set to. Horn didn't discount the possibility of adding another player if he could find one that he likes -- walk-on guard Robert Wilder, who was elevated to scholarship player this season, could be returned to walk-on status if Horn found another player.

As for Downey, the process is undergoing for the two-time first-team All-SEC pick to begin working out with NBA teams. Downey declared for the NBA Draft but did not hire an agent, meaning he can remove his name anytime before June 15 and return to school for his senior year. Invitations to NBA workouts can begin on April 30.

Horn said he went to Portsmouth, Va., to talk to NBA scouts at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a showcase for college seniors. He received some information on how the next level views Downey and passed it on.

"Right now, what we're hearing is that it's doubtful that he's a draft pick," Horn said. "There's a chance that maybe he could sneak into the second round. People like his athleticism, they like the things that we all like about him.

"Just because of how the draft is shaping up, and how that stuff goes, they don't see him getting in right now. The important thing is, he'll get to go to the workouts and get a feel for what that's like and test himself against some guys and who knows?"



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